Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am not a Black Mother

The following is an attempt to give voice to a feeling I have been working out. It is not a manifesto. Far from it. It is more a reaction to an essay I read on the Love Isn't Enough blog (see below for the link to that blog--the essay is the one called "Aint I A Mommy" by Deesha Philyaw that appears a few down from my poem if you go to the "home" link there.) which talks about the inheritance black mothers share with each other.

A wildly informative and historically rich article that has me thinking about how parents of students of color might feel about having their children in schools where there are so few teachers of color.

And then of course I went in a zillion other directions in my head. Lots of questions. I ended up back where I wanted to start from: I want to be Michelle Obama in my next life. She got to be a guest on Sesame Street talking about gardening.


I'm not a black mother

but I'm the mother of two brown skinned children
will that make them less black because of me-
as if our colors blend together in an outcome pot.

Will that make them less black because of me
who doesn't share generations of oppressed cellular memory
who wears brown clothing almost exclusively as if
that will erase the oppressor link to my family genetically

Who wears brown clothing almost exclusively
Because of what I’m not-a mother not born of generations
of having to care for other people's children like it or not
like the woman who raised my mother as her own

Because of what I'm not as a mother of brown skinned children
going to accept or let their teachers and peers forget
my children see themselves on the pages at story time each day
and know the story about ignorance that already kept one friend away

My children put themselves in the story every single day
coached now to answer because I look like the president
when he was asked why he looked like the brownie in his friend’s lunch
I am not a black mother who would not have been taken by surprise

When asked why he looked like the brownie in his friend’s lunch
I break a little here seeing that confusion reflected in his eyes
then I imagine not too long from now
the seventy million people who identified as other on the 2000 census

Collectively surrounding my children with theirs
because of what we are determined to be
color aware aware aware and open as we can see
when what we're not won't matter so much

To you, them, or me.

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